Sherri Tenpenny wants us to stop calling chickenpox and measles diseases.
She thinks that we should call them infections instead…
Should I Stop Calling Chickenpox and Measles Diseases?
If you are like most people, you are probably thinking to yourself and maybe even shouting at your computer screen right now, “who cares what you call them, just get vaccinated and stop the outbreaks!”
Believe it or not, there is actually some precedent for changing the way we talk about diseases. While you may still refer to them as STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases out of habit, the prefererable term is actually STI, or sexually tranmistted infection.
Of course, this has nothing to do with Tenpenny’s reasoning.
“Why the change? The concept of ‘disease,’ as in STD, suggests a clear medical problem, usually some obvious signs or symptoms. But several of the most common STDs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of persons infected. Or they have mild signs and symptoms that can be easily overlooked. So the sexually transmitted virus or bacteria can be described as creating ‘infection,’ which may or may not result in ‘disease.’ This is true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), to name a few.
For this reason, for some professionals and organizations the term ‘disease’ is being replaced by ‘infection.'”
ASHA on STDs/STIs
In fact, their definitions sound nothing like Tenpennys…
Unfortunately, many STIs, even if they aren’t causing symptoms and disease, can still be contagious.
Measles and chickenpox don’t do that. Although you can be contagious just before you start to have symptoms, you will very quickly develop symptoms.
It is true that some viruses and bacteria can lead to subclinical infections, in which you develop immunity without ever developing symptoms, but that doesn’t usually happen with measles and chicken pox.
Polio is one of the best examples of when it does happen. Remember, nearly 75% of kids who got polio never had any symptoms. Tragically, those symptoms could be severe in the small percentage who did.
It is not caused by MMR or any measles containing vaccine.
Of course, the measles vaccine is not 100% effective, so it is possible that you could still get measles after being vaccinated. And those folks who get measles after getting vaccinated could be at risk to get SSPE, but even then, their SSPE would be caused by wild measles virus, not a vaccine strain.
“Available epidemiological data are consistent with a directly protective effect of vaccine against SSPE mediated by preventing measles.”
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and measles vaccination
Again, SSPE is caused by natural measles infections and the wild type measles virus.
Tragically, after big outbreaks of measles, we start to see more cases of SSPE, with the greatest in children who get measles at a young age.
And SSPE is universally fatal in these children, who develop symptoms about six to eight years after recovering from having measles.
That the symptoms of SSPE don’t develop until long after you have recovered from measles is why the condition is often described as a time-bomb.
Believe it or not, some folks are still pushing misinformation to scare people away from getting vaccinated and protected against measles.
Ironically, this guy talks about propaganda, manipulating parents, and media lies without saying anything that is truthful.
As I’m sure you are aware, the Disney measles outbreak was not caused by a vaccine strain.
The outbreak strain during the Disney outbreak was B3, which can be traced to outbreaks in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Neither the Disneyland outbreak nor any outbreak has been caused by a vaccine strain of measles.
What about the idea that measles is now harmless???
Or that measles isn’t deadly is a developed country with a well-nourished population???
Why have so many people died with measles in Europe recently if it is so harmless?
Yes, research it for yourself and you will find the complications of recent measles infections he left out, including the pregnant woman with who had a miscarriage during the 2013 measles outbreak in Brooklyn.
“Local health authorities may recommend measles vaccination of infants between 6 to 12 months of age in outbreak situations. This population may fail to respond to the components of the vaccine. Safety and effectiveness of mumps and rubella vaccine in infants less than 12 months of age have not been established. The younger the infant, the lower the likelihood of seroconversion (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY). Such infants should receive a second dose of M-M-R II between 12 to 15 months of age followed by revaccination at elementary school entry.”
MMR II Package Insert
The package insert says to give infants who get an early dose another dose when they are 12 to 15 months old! It doesn’t say to not protect these babies!
But what about the idea that the safety and effectiveness of MMR hasn’t been proven for infants under 12 months of age?
In general, the package insert is only going to list studies that the manufacturer used to get FDA approval for their vaccine. Since it is an off-label recommendation of the ACIP, they would not include the studies that show that an early MMR is safe and effective.
“In conclusion, this study indicated that the MMR was well tolerated and immunogenic against measles, mumps and rubella with schedule of first dose both at 8 months and 12 months age. Our findings strongly supported that two doses of MMR can be introduced by replacing the first dose of MR in current EPI with MMR at 8 months age and the second dose at 18 months in China.”
He et al on Similar immunogenicity of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine administrated at 8 months versus 12 months age in children.
Before 8 months, an early MMR isn’t likely to be as effective as giving it later. That’s because some maternal antibodies might linger in a baby’s system and can interfere with the vaccine working, even after six months. How many antibodies and how much interference?
It’s almost impossible to tell for any one child, but the risk that this maternal protection has begun to wear off and these infants are at risk to develop measles is too great. That’s the reason that they get an early MMR, even though we know it won’t be as effective as a dose given later and we know it will have to be repeated.
Is this early dose safe?
“This review did not identify any major safety concerns. These findings may facilitate discussions about the risks and benefits of vaccinating infants who are potentially exposed to this life-threatening disease.”
Woo et al on Adverse Events After MMR or MMRV Vaccine in Infants Under Nine Months Old
Of course! Although the complications of measles can be serious, even deadly, we aren’t going to recommend something that is even worse.
“Early MMR vaccination is well tolerated, with the lowest AE frequencies found in infants aged 6-8 months. It is a safe intervention for protecting young infants against measles.”
van der Maas et al on Tolerability of Early Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Infants Aged 6-14 Months During a Measles Outbreak in The Netherlands in 2013-2014.
Anti-vaccine folks often like to push the idea that parents shouldn’t worry about measles and that it is just a rash with a little fever.
They leave out the part that it is a week of having a high fever, irritability, and other symptoms too.
In addition to downplaying the symptoms of measles, they never talk about the possible complications, such as encephalitis, seizures, and death.
Why Do We Include SSPE When Counting Measles Deaths?
They certainly never talk about SSPE or subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.
“Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive neurological disorder of children and young adults that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is a slow, but persistent, viral infection caused by defective measles virus.”
Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Information Page
SSPE is a late complication of having a natural measles infection.
“Available epidemiological data, in line with virus genotyping data, do not suggest that measles vaccine virus can cause SSPE. Furthermore, epidemiological data do not suggest that the administration of measles vaccine can accelerate the course of SSPE or trigger SSPE in an individual who would have developed the disease at a later time without immunization. Neither can the vaccine lead to the development of SSPE where it would not otherwise have occurred in a person who has already a benign persistent wild measles infection at the time of vaccination.”
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and measles vaccination
It is not a complication of having a measles containing vaccine. If it were, then why didn’t we see more cases of SSPE as more and more people got vaccinated, instead of a drop in SSPE cases and deaths, corresponding to a drop in measles cases?
But SSPE isn’t gone yet, just like measles hasn’t yet been eradicated.
Since 2000, when the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States, there have been at least 37 SSPE deaths.
“Investigators learned that, in 2012, at age 11 years, the boy, who was previously healthy and developmentally normal, had been admitted to a tertiary care children’s hospital in Oregon with severe, progressive encephalopathy. Before the onset of his neurologic illness, the patient had been a straight-A, fifth-grade student who played soccer and basketball. The symptoms began approximately 4 months before the hospital admission, when the patient began to struggle with homework, drop utensils, and doze off during meals, eventually progressing to falling asleep while walking.”
Notes from the Field: Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Death — Oregon, 2015
I say at least, because the CDC Wonder database doesn’t list the 2015 SSPE death of a boy in Oregon.
We are fortunate that no one has died since 2015, but as we get more and more measles cases, tragically, in addition of the risk of someone dying of measles directly, it increases the risk that someone will eventually develop SSPE.
“Decreasing rates of vaccination in the United States, particularly among preschool-aged children (children <5 years of age) living in inner-city areas, resulted in a resurgence in the number of cases of measles reported during 1989–1991; during this period, 55,622 cases of measles and 123 measles-associated deaths were reported.”
Bellini et al on Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: More Cases of This Fatal Disease Are Prevented by Measles Immunization than Was Previously Recognized
Remember, there were at least 12 extra SSPE deaths following the large measles outbreaks of the late 1980s.
Will we see any after the rise in the cases the last few years?
“…the measles outbreak was made out to be a unfounded panic created by big pharmaceutical companies and meant to push legislative agendas. Del Bigtree, a celebrity in the anti-vaccine movement, spoke with “Dr. Bob Sears.” My mom and I sat down, watching this video so she could prove her beliefs were not unfounded. In this video, Dr. Bob Sears claims that in the past 15 years there hasn’t been a single death to the measles. In contrast, 449 people have had fatal reactions to the MMR vaccine.”
Testimony of Ethan Lindenberger Student at Norwalk High school Before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee March 5th, 2019
These and many other comments didn’t make it into his oral statements.
“Although Ethan did not include this information in his verbal testimony, it was part of his original verbal statements (which were leaked), then edited out – for obvious reasons.”
The obvious reason is that each witness only had five minutes to speak, not some conspiracy as Dr. Bob seems to be implying!
And his original, written statements weren’t leaked. Like the statements of every other witness, they were posted on the Senate Committee website.
After clearing up all of that, do we still need to discuss how Dr. Bob is trying to justify any of his statements about the MMR vaccine?
Even though you can guess where this is going, let’s go ahead and do it to be complete, especially since Dr. Bob really does seem to want folks to know where “the fact” of the 459 fatal reactions to the MMR vaccine come from.
You likely already know this, but they are simply reports to VAERS. And you likely also know that “inclusion of events in VAERS data does not imply causality.” That little fact is included in a disclaimer when you search the VAERS database, which is why anti-vaccine folks created their own search tool at MedAlerts – the reference Dr. Bob uses.
But just because we understand that these reports aren’t proof of causality doesn’t mean that we dismiss them. No one dismisses VAERS reports as unscientific, as Bob Sears claims.
“And if you are the type of doctor, or Legislator, who likes to dismiss VAERS reports as “unscientific,” then please explain why HHS even bothers to collect the data? Spend millions of dollars collecting scientific data, then do nothing with it? Who does that? And what type of scientist ignores data? Is that what Congress had in mind when it created the VAERS system as a Federal Law?”
“VAERS is used to detect possible safety problems – called “signals” – that may be related to vaccination. If a vaccine safety signal is identified through VAERS, scientists may conduct further studies to find out if the signal represents an actual risk.”
CDC on How VAERS is Used
Remember, it was using VAERS data that CDC and FDA vaccine experts quickly discovered that the first RotaShield rotavirus vaccine was associated with an increased risk of intussusception.
“In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned about this in a 1998 publication in Pediatrics that confirmed 48 cases of severe or fatal encephalopathy after Measles Vaccination in the 70s and 80s: 8 children died, and the rest survived but were neurologically devastated.”
What about the AAP warning about encephalopathy and the measles vaccine?
Dr. Bob is talking about a 1997 paper, Acute Encephalopathy Followed by Permanent Brain Injury or Death Associated With Further Attenuated Measles Vaccines: A Review of Claims Submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which concluded that “this clustering suggests that a causal relationship between measles vaccine and encephalopathy may exist as a rare complication of measles immunization.”
“Nevertheless, with a denominator of 75,000,000 vaccinees throughout 23 years, the incidence of acute encephalopathy caused by measles vaccine in this cohort can reasonably be described as very low.”
Weibel et al on Acute Encephalopathy Followed by Permanent Brain Injury or Death Associated With Further Attenuated Measles Vaccines: A Review of Claims Submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
Bob left that part out, didn’t he?
Considering how many children used to die and develop measles encephalitis each year, this small risk would still seem to greatly outweigh the risk of remaining unvaccinated and at risk to get measles.
Fortunately, even that risk is something we likely don’t have to worry about!
“We did not identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, or autism.”
Mäkelä et al on Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.
Although encephalopathy or encephalitis is still a table injury, studies have shown it is likely not associated with getting the MMR vaccine.
“For encephalitis and aseptic meningitis, the numbers of events observed within a 3-month risk interval after vaccination were compared with the expected numbers estimated on the basis of occurrence of encephalitis and aseptic meningitis during the subsequent 3-month intervals. “
Mäkelä et al on Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.
And then there is the 2012 IOM report, Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, which found inadequate evidence to be able to conclude that encephalitis was caused by vaccines.
“The last child to die from measles infection in the United States was back in 2003. Since then, over 100 fatal VAERS reports have been filed for the MMR vaccine. At what point would mandating this no longer be considered in the interest of the greater good? “
Bob ignores those reports and ignores the fact that a woman died in 2015.
He also ignores the fact that you don’t even have to go all of the way back to 2003 to find the last child who died of measles.
a 17-year-old died of SSPE in 2004
a 1-year-old died of measles in 2005
an 11-year-old died of SSPE in 2005
an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old died of SSPE in 2006
a 19-year-old died of SSPE in 2007
a 13-year-old died of SSPE in 2008
a 17-year-old died of SSPE in 2011
an infant died of SSPE in 2012
More importantly though, he ignores that fact that the only reason that there aren’t even more measles deaths these days is because most people are vaccinated and protected! Even Bob used to understand this…
“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”
Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book
Unfortunately, people shared their fears with their neighbors… And we are seeing the consequences of what happens when folks scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
Anti-vaccine folks like to talk about death and measles, as long as they can talk about vaccine deaths, something they seem to think happens commonly.
“Over the past ten years in the U.S., there has been one reported death from the measles, and it is unclear based on the medical history of the patient whether and how measles played a role in their death. During the same time period (based on Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports), there have been 105 reported deaths associated with the MMR or MMRV vaccinations.”
Measles Madness: Dr. Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators
There are two big problems with this statement, that is so often repeated that it is clearly a PRATT – a point refuted a thousand times.
The reports in VAERS about deaths after MMR are not proof of a cause-and-effect relationship.
“Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”
Guide to Interpreting VAERS Data
In fact, studies have shown that most of the reports of deaths submitted to VAERS are coincidental and not causally associated with a vaccine.
There are plenty of those that anti-vaccine folks love to ignore.
Where are they?
These deaths are all in the CDC Wonder database.
Before the death of the woman in Washington in 2015, the CDC caused a lot of confusion by stating that “the last verifiable death in the United States from acute measles infection occurred in 2003 when there were 2 reported deaths.”
Does that mean that the measles deaths in 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2012 didn’t happen?
Of course not!
The information in the CDC Wonder database comes from death certificates that are sent in from all over the United States to the National Vital Statistics System. The system isn’t like VAERS though, where just anyone can send in a report. Still, they are unverified, which is why the CDC doesn’t mention them all.